These were two of the more obscure
Celtic tribes noted by Julius Caesar in his Commentaries. But for his
two expeditions of 55 BC and 54 BC, the existence of either of them might have
been completely lost to prehistory. Their locations are hard to pin down with
any precision, but it may be possible that they were located close to the River
Thames, and probably on the north and south banks respectively. That would have placed the early
Catuvellauni to the north, the
Trinovantes to the distant east, and the
to the south.
Caesar wasn't planning to document all the tribes of Britain during his
expeditions. He just noted those he came into contact with, while he was
subduing the south-east's dominant tribe and putting down a marker for
future relations with
of the lesser tribes were the Ancalites, Bibroci, and Segontiaci, probably
minor groups who lived on the border areas between their much larger
neighbours. It is only conjecture, but the Ancalites seem to have been
settled around Henly-on-Thames, while just across the river and a few
kilometres east were the Bibroci in Bray.
The sixteenth century author of Britannia, William Camden, wrote that
Henley (in Oxfordshire) was that 'which some doe thinke the Ascalites... did
inhabite'. Today, the Wiltshire tourist board claims the Ancalites as being
part of that county's own ethnic ancestry. If true, this would extend the
tribe's territory considerably to the west, but there is no proof for the
The Ancalites name is relatively complicated to break down. In proto-Celtic,
*ang-e/o- means 'fear', and it appears that the first part of the Anglo-Saxon
words 'angrisla' and 'angrislic' may have been borrowed directly from Gaulish,
cognate with the Latin word 'angere', meaning 'to strangle'. This is also noted in the
tribal name on the continent. While it is uncertain, it would seem to form
the first half of the Ancalites name (anca-lites), with the 'c'
pronounced as a 'k' and therefore easily shifted there from 'anga' or 'ange'. This
root is also a likely candidate for the root of the names
Angle and Anglyn.
Does it mean fearsome? Were they describing themselves as terrors to others?
Further muddying the issue is the fact that both the Angrivarii and the Angles were
Ingaevones, a sort of early supertribal collective. Is the real root for
this 'ing' or 'ang'?
The meaning of the Bibroci name is even more difficult to determine. A
popular view seems to suggest it is related to the word for beaver, from
proto-Celtic 'bebro'. Latin has the word 'bibo', which means 'to drink', a
word that would also have had a Celtic root and which would provide an
amusing possibility. More seriously, Bibroci is very close in pronunciation
to Bibracte, a major fortress in Gaul, raising the possibility of a
(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from External Link:
Cassivellaunus kills Imanuentius, king of the
but the dead king's son, Mandubracius, flees to the
in Gaul. He wins the support of Julius Caesar and the Roman general makes
the second of his exploratory forays into
Cassivellaunus organises and leads a coalition army against him but is
defeated by Caesar's expeditionary force south of Thamesis, near modern Brentford.
The Catuvellauni and their allies fall back to the tribal capital at Wheathampstead
in Hertfordshire (a little way north of St Albans). Emissaries from five British
tribes, including the Ancalites and the Bibroci, arrive at the Roman camp to
treat for peace. They also reveal the location of Cassivellaunus' stronghold
to Caesar, which is where the final battle is probably fought on 5 August.
Cassivellaunus subsequently sues for peace and Mandubracius is reinstated
as king of the Trinovantes.
Cooke in his work Thames in 1811 tried to assert that the Romans
in AD 43 used a bridge at Henley to cross the river and surprise
the Britons, but there is no evidence of a bridge until 1225, even though
it would have been a useful connection between Ancalites and Bibroci
54 - c.30 BC
Following his defeat by Julius Caesar and the subsequent withdrawal of the
expeditionary force, Cassivellaunus begins to expand his tribe's territory
from its core heartland north of the Thames in all directions, building up
the larger kingdom that will dominate south-eastern
for the next century and the one which adopts the
name. Territory is subjugated in the modern counties of Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire,
Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire east of the Cherwell, Middlesex and
Just who occupies these newly conquered territories beforehand is largely unknown,
whether they are lesser tribes whose names have been lost or neighbouring tribes such as the
However, given the presumed locations of the Ancalites and the Bibroci on
the banks of the Thames, this makes them ideal candidates for tribes that
are subsumed within the Catuvellauni in this period. Neither are recorded
again, and they are certainly not recognised as existing by the time of the
Roman imperial invasion of AD 43.